6th stage: Over the Balkan Peninsula to the South

Slowly our Pack Easy bird of passage flies, as it belongs to its species, to the South and turns away from its small trip to the Bavarian Sea and the German speaking area. It is attracted by the Croatia, the land whose scenic beauty has inspired a large number of creative persons. Already in the 60ties the Plitvicer lakes in the middle of the country tempted the producers of the legendary Winnetou-films to come to the quite unknown country on the Balkan Peninsula. Today the confirmed fans of the Game of Thrones find in and around the towns of Sibenik and Dubrovnik numerous locations of the multiple award-winning television series.

From Croatia, more precisely from the Dalmatian coast, comes as well the most distinctive race of dogs, whose degree of fame after Disney's "101 Dalmatians" spread over the whole world. And it was as well a Croatian inventor who contributed that those Dalmatians 1961 in a cartoon have been animated. Because to the most known inventions of Slavolub Eduard Penkala (1871-1922) belong versions of a mechanical pen as well as a fountain pen containing solid ink, the model of our today's ballpoint.

Pekala's centre of life, the lively capital Zagreb forms the point of departure of our trip to the most beautiful places of Croatia.

Walk through the Old Town of the Capital

Characteristic for the Croatian capital is its Austrian-Hungarian architecture of the 18th and 19th century, besides numerous monuments and statues, coffee shops and parks mark the townscape and attract every summer a lot of people on the streets and into the parks of the bustling town.

Gornji Grad, the original centre of the town and the today's upper town count as the cultural centre of Zagreb. Here we are walking some time through the car-free lanes, along museums and galleries of art, but also to places of interest as the catholic church of Saint Mark, the head quarter of the Croatian Government, as well as the historical centre Kaptol with its cathedral of Zagreb.

In Donji Grad, the newer district of the town, you will find the main shopping street and the business buildings of the town. However, between rather sad concrete buildings, some remarkable architectural projects attract our attention.

Green Pleasure in the Centre of the Town

From a bird's-eye view, the green belt in the middle of the town's centre attracts one specially. The "Lenuci-Horseshoe" got his name from the architect and city planner, Milan Lenuci, who was in the second half of the 19th century mandated with the planning of Zagreb and its parks.

The "Lenuci-Horseshoe" are public gardens and made out of seven places and parks, which connect these, and a botanical garden. Lenuci designed the arrangement of the places, which are all named after important men of the Croatian history, in form of an "U", which gave it the name of the "Green Horseshoe".



Greenbelt Recreational Area and Cultural Monument

The favourite green oasis of the capital continues, however, to be the Maksimir Park, who represented at his inauguration in the year of 1794 the first public garden in the South-East of Europe and is still today the most ancient and largest of the region. This historical place with its effective mixture of English lawn and forest, in between foot paths, lakes and pavilions, permits the inhabitants of Zagreb and the tourists just to take deep breaths.

In the Maksimir Park is as well located the zoo of Zagreb, which started at times with three foxes and some owls and counts today more than 2'200 animals on about 7 hectares. All in all this enormous park has a surface of 316 hectares and gives children and adults enough space for their leisure activities of all kinds.


On Winnetou's trace

Now we turn away from the coloured activities in the summery Zagreb and follow the Pack Easy bird of passage to the Adriatic Coast. During we glide over the centre of the country, we have to make a visit to the already mentioned Plitvicer lakes in the mountain area of Croatia. The national park is the largest and most ancient of the country and celebrated in 1979 the entry on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage.

Its unique and varied vegetation makes nature lover's hearts beat stronger. Hiking trails lead through parts of the National Park and over small wooden bridges through the lake side district. There are as well some rowing boats at your disposal to discover on your own in detail the impressive water world.



Charming Sailors' village

Finally arrived at the coast, firstly we want to take a break in beautiful Skradin in the district of Sibenik. In the small village, which the fishers and sailors equally like, the river Krka is changing into a long and deep bay. From here on, water taxis bring visitors to the impressive cascades, natural paths and lakes in the National Park of the same name.

We have for the first time another destination. Since decades the family Bulat manages the Villa Bonaca near the marina. Here merges tradition with modernity: The glass bordered terrace opens the view over a Mediterranean pool lay out directly to the picturesque fishers' and sailors' boats in the harbour. The rustic restaurant serves authentic Dalmatian delicacies in a typical ambience. At sight of a traditional Skradin-Risotto it makes our mouth water. This regional dish is a masterpiece of cooking. You need onions, veal, rice and according to the family's receipt even more secret ingredients, and it has to cook during 12 hours on an open fire. A tasting experience, which we do not want to miss.



Prizewinning town beach with view

But what would be a trip to the sea side without going to the beach, sea water and bathing pleasures? Naturally, there are numerous beaches and bays along the Adriatic Coast. Our choice falls today on the small, but very fine town beach Bahj, just a few minutes from the old town of Sibenik. The town lies on a bay, the water is specially clear, calm and turquoise and glimmers in the sun. Banj offers a charming view on the cathedral Saint Jacob, the Michael's fortress and the channel of Saint Anton.

In Sibenik are another three fortresses, which give you a magnificent view over the coloured roofs of the town and the Archipelago of Sibenik with its ten big and multiple small islands. They serve as well as coulisse for innumerable cultural events as Chanson Evenings, Middle Age festivals and short film days.



A forgotten energy place

Who wants for a moment to escape from the summer heat, can come with us on a walk through the Mediterranean monastery garden of Saint Laurentius. After nearly 100 years having fallen into oblivion, this magnificent place has been renovated and in 2007 reopened.

The monastery garden has been arranged according to the well-known medieval plan: a cross way, in the centre a small fountain, around box trees and beautiful smelling roses. On four parts there are cultivated medical herbs and spices. A remarkable fact is a collection of thymes with magnificent coloured leaves in reddish, mauve, grey, bright and dark green.




A culinary celebration for the senses

Shortly before our trip is going to end, an exquisite experience at the first class and repeatedly prized Restaurant Pelegrini in the centre of the town is awaiting us. The chef and owner, Rudi Stefan, is tempting friends of the "Fine-Dining" to try his extraordinary creations of regional specialities and invites in a nice atmosphere, far away of the mass tourism and bustle, to a celebration of all senses.

His prized dishes are accompanied by wines of Croatia and the surrounding countries of the Balkan. But as well the choice of cocktails and their impressive list, is tempting you to finish the warm summer evening with pleasure.




Mysterious Game with the Elements

Evenings at the Adriatic Coast are especially appealing. It is worthwhile to stay mornings some time longer in bed and make the warm summer nights to days.

Two extraordinary spectacles attract shortly after the sun set to the Promenade of Zadar. The sea resort at the Adriatic Coast was originally known for its roman and venetian ruins and its old town situated on an peninsula. Some years ago there were added modern crowd-pullers designed by the architect Nikola Basic. This Croatian visionary concentrated himself totally to elements and created two works of a special kind.

The lighting game Pozdrav Suncu, in English "Reverence to the sun", has been an adaptation to an amphitheatre. The large place of 22 meters is made up of 300 multi-layered glass plates, which are set in the floor and represent the sun. In the glass plates are solar cells integrated and small, coloured luminous products, which during the day collect solar energy for illuminating the Promenade in the dark.

Just nearby is Basic's first project the Sea Organ, an experimental instrument, whose sounds are produced by the waves under large stone plates. Although the sounds seem strange and incalculable, they form still a harmonic and atmospheric overall picture.

At this extraordinary place, we will end this stage of our trip to the South. Croatia has impressed us with its fine sense for combinations of tradition and modernity, its passion for regional specialities and customs and its unique scenic beauty.